I'm totally comfortable with there being two distinct types of traditional customs:
True traditional and topical traditional.
During a recent visit to a friend's shop, Rudy Rodriguez's Fullerton Fabrication, to see Paul Hoffman's '40 Merc (don't worry, we'll have a full feature on it in the next issue), I got to thinking about my personal custom project ... well, more like re-thinking. Among my thoughts were things like color combinations and choice of specific components. But ultimately, I ended up right back in the same mind-set as I'd been in before seeing Paul's black beauty in finished form.
I'm totally comfortable with there being two distinct types of traditional customs: true traditional and topical traditional. The Merc that Rudy's just completed is without a doubt the former type; mine's the latter. As much of a stickler for details as I am, the thought of reverse-engineering my Fleetline in order to put it in the other category would ultimately be more work, take more time, and of course cost more money. But still, to see a car such as Paul's-dropped axle, drum brakes, Columbia two-speed, original Flathead, etc.-sitting with a perfect stance, running like a fine Swiss watch, and whatnot, well, the temptation was hard to resist.
Even though I've never had the greatest luck with Flatheads, I was still able to talk myself into re-thinking my SBC plans for the '33 Tudor (thanks to encouragement from Mike Herman at H&H, among other things). However, an SBC it will still be for the '47 Chevy. Matter of fact, the 350 I've stashed away in the corner of my garage will end up getting fit for a new fuel-injection setup (EZ-EFI) to go along with the already-equipped disc brakes, overdrive automatic trans, and so on. Quite the opposite from a true traditional custom's underpinnings, don't you think? I think so. But I also want to drive this car-hard and very often. (I've entertained all the arguments about the ability to make an early drivetrain functional and efficient-again, that's what the '33 will be the platform for.)
On the exterior of the Chevy, though, it will be for all intents and purposes, a custom-a topical custom, as it were. Early GM spotlights (S1 SportLites), 16-inch GM accessory hubcaps, bias-ply whitewalls, Candy Apple Red-maybe even skirts after all. And peering through the windows, the traditional tuck 'n' roll and sparse accessories (stock column shift, retrofitted stock instruments, etc.) will also give off the appearance of a traditional build. It's under the hood and beneath the body that will be anything but. But as I said, that's OK with me ... at least it is nowadays.
Maybe 10 or more years ago, I'd have gone about this project differently. But I'm not the same as I was a decade ago-physically or mentally. Having had two major spine surgeries (in the last two years alone) along with having my son, I now look at things from a completely different standpoint. Laziness may be confused for convenience (or is it the other way around?!), but the older I get, the less I want to mess with things-a custom with certain modern components is just one of the things that makes life easier and more enjoyable.
Despite everything I've just said, I'd kill to have Hoffman's Merc parked in my garage!